BEA NOMINATIONS OPENING

The Penticton Chamber of Commerce and Total Restoration Services launched the 2022 Business Excellence Awards (BEA) on Wednesday.

Members of the board announced the 35th annual BEA and the opening of nominations to members of the media, along with plans for a celebration on Oct. 22.

Jonathan McGraw, president of the Penticton Chamber of Commerce said that this is the time for everyone to get to put an arm around one another as a business community and thank each other.

Nominations opened today at 4 p.m. and close on Wednesday, Aug, 31, which can be found online here.

Total Restoration is the presenting sponsor for the third year in a row.

“We do feel like this is the event of the year in Penticton,” said Tracy Van Raes, marketing and community relations manager for Total Restoration Services.

This year there will be changes in using a fully customizable software online program for the award show process with Awardify.

The chamber is also putting a call out into the community to nominate selection judges for the committee. There will also be three new judges from the chamber board and past winners.

The awards will be held at the Penticton Trade & Convention Centre (PTCC). The theme will be announced in the coming weeks.

Last year’s event was held at the PTCC, as well as virtually on Facebook Live.

McGraw added that those nominated this year should be “upholding the values of the business community.”

Prep your home against wildfires before they return with Penticton’s FireSmart program

 

BEFORE THE WILDFIRE IS BACK

Penticton FireSmart wants to see the community step up and have their homes checked by the city’s free program now that the area’s drying trend has returned.

The first wildfire in Penticton’s area sparked on Monday afternoon, just above homes on the West Bench.

“We’re really looking for people to be proactive ahead of the wildfire season, it’s a lot easier to do this mitigation before the wildfire is at your back door,” said Miyoko McKeown, FireSmart Coordinator for the City of Penticton.

“One of the benefits of the program is if you are a fire smart certified, you can actually go to the cooperators and receive up to 10 per cent off your property.”

To become FireSmart certified, the first thing to do is to have a Wildfire Mitigation Specialist complete a home assessment. Once the resident has completed any suggestions given by the team, they can become eligible for that insurance discount.

“We’ll go over your whole property, the vegetation, everything around the home up to 100 meters around the home, including the home itself. So what it’s built out of, the roofing, the siding, windows doors, there’s all these boxes you have to check to be certified,” McKeown said.

The team works to turn over those assessments back to the homeowner within five business days.

“This is definitely the time we really want to be seeing people being proactive with FireSmart. We want people cleaning up around their yards, considering some fuel conversion, and just doing the work to build resiliency into their homes and properties and their neighbourhoods,” said Brittany Seibert, the City of Penticton Emergency Program Coordinator.

“Do that mitigation work around your home if that’s cleaning out your gutters, really cleaning out that non-combustible zone around your house, getting rid of all that leafy debris that’s been left over that’s getting super dry this time of year,” McKeown added.

The effectiveness of the FireSmart program has been proven to have a drastic impact on reducing the risk of wildfire.

“We definitely want people to not be complacent, to not forget that wildfire season is still here, it’s still happening. And it can happen at a moment’s notice,” Siebert said.

Assessment takes approximately anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the property.

Its recommended for residents to also be prepared with an emergency plan and a grab-and-go bag if evacuation orders come out in their area.

For more information on the program or to set up an assessment, reach out to firesmart@penticton.ca

Residents outside of Penticton in the South Okanagan, visit the RDOS FireSmart website here.

Penticton encouraging residents to register bikes with Project 529 as thefts rise

 

TACKLING UPTICK IN BIKE THEFTS

A rise in bike thefts in Penticton has the city urging residents to register their bikes through Project 529 as both a preventative and a recovery measure.

The worldwide bike program offers free bike registration that helps track rightful ownership by recording serial numbers, model information and key identifiers.

The program is intended to facilitate a speedier return of stolen bikes to owners and dissuade potential thieves. It allows for a user who recently had their bike stolen to send out an alert to other users within a nearby radius.

Through the database, prospective bike buyers can make sure a bike they are looking at hasn’t been reported missing.

“It’s been in use for a number of years. But we are finding there’s not a ton of people using it. And we really want to make sure that people are registering new and old bikes, so that in the event of a theftt the bikes can get returned to their rightful owners,” said Tina Mercier, city bylaw services manager.

“Officers down at the detachment and community safety officers can both check within their systems to see if the bike has been reported as stolen,” Alexis Hovenkamp, community policing coordinator, added.

Bylaw is working on addressing the rise in thefts and offer up preventative solutions to the community.

“The community has said loud and clear, that they’ve seen more of it and people are experiencing theft of their bikes a lot more frequently, from what we’re hearing and seeing, very active on social media as well,” Mercier said.

“Nobody wants to have their bike stolen, nobody asked for it, we worked very hard for the things we have in our community.”

Preventative bike theft measures suggested from the RCMP include:

  • Recording the serial number, regardless of the value of the bike, so that they can be added to police computer records, which helps bikes be identified if located.
  • Photograph your bike, as a reference, to assist police in identification.
  • Never leave your bike unlocked in public. If securing your bike in public, use a high-quality lock. Take the extra step and remove the seat or a wheel as an extra deterrent.
  • Never lock your bike by the front wheel only. Always lock your bike with two quality locks; use a U-lock and a cable lock. By using more than one style of lock it will take thieves two types of tools and twice as much time to steal your bike.
  • If storing your bike at your residence, store it in a safe location using a lock or on your property inside a locked area.

Reports of stolen bikes in the community are coming forward even as people work to add these preventative measures.

“The more brazen attempts have been challenging and difficult for our community to handle. And that’s why we want to make sure that we can offer this as a solution to help,” Mercier said.

“We also really want to promote the ability to make sure that you are locking up your bikes, you’re taking them in where possible,” Hovenkamp added.

Even if a bike has been tampered with or repainted, it can still be recovered with the 529 system when the registrant has inputted serial numbers and ownership data.

“It’s definitely helping the issue. We rely so heavily on the public’s eyes and ears and your ability to report things. And that’s very important to this process. Without people reporting things, there’s no knowledge for us to determine if that bike has been stolen, just because it might not look like it belongs to that individual,” Mercier said.

The bylaw team reminds people that if their bike has been stolen and is spotted in someone else’s possession, it’s best to report the sighting and let law enforcement handle it.

“There are obvious safety concerns with that, with an opioid crisis and mental health and addictions issues, those are challenges that our community is facing and our entire country is as well. So we want to ensure that the public is safe. So obviously proceeding with very much caution in those situations,” Mercier said.

“Though it might be your bike that you’re trying to retrieve yourself, you need to make sure that you’re considering your own safety before anything.”

With Project 529, if a bike is stolen, officers have the ability to scan and know right away who the rightful owner is.

Register your bicycle – including e-bikes – for free with Project 529, the bike registration program, operated in partnership with Penticton RCMP. You can register your bike for free in less than five minutes at www.project529.com or download the 529 Garage smartphone app. Pick up your decals at the Penticton RCMP detachment or City of Penticton Bylaw Services at no charge.

Community policing will have a booth at the Penticton Farmers’ Market on July 23 where they can assist in registering bikes.

Random checks of Penticton residents’ recycling and yard waste carts this summer

 

RECYCLING AUDITS COMING

Recycling teams have started checking through Penticton residents’ curbside recycling and yard waste carts in an effort to improve the community’s sorting success rates.

The city said that the team of “recycling ambassadors,’” random inspections of the bins, is all part of an education campaign.

“Overall, Penticton is doing a great job of sorting their recycling into their blue carts, as well as keeping non-plant materials out of their yard waste carts. With a few tips and reminders, we hope to raise awareness of some common mistakes so that homeowners are more aware about what can go in their carts,” David Kassian, community sustainability coordinator, said.

“Please keep an eye out for the city’s recycling ambassadors, who will be auditing the carts this summer.”

Penticton has a goal to lower recycling contamination rate of 7.8 per cent to 4.5 per cent by year-end to meet RecycleBC requirements, bringing costs down and preventing recyclable material from ending up in landfills.

Residents are reminded to keep these items out of your curbside recycling carts:

  • Soft/hard cover books, scrap metal, electronics, ceramics, household hazardous waste
  • Materials contained inside bags or different types of containers nested together (for example, recyclable items stuffed inside a box)
  • Glass
  • Plastic bags and overwrap
  • Other flexible plastic packaging
  • Accepted material containing residue, which includes containers with food inside
  • Foam packaging

Many of the items below can be dropped off at a recycling depot. If you’re not sure where your recycling item goes, try the “Recycling Wizard” tool at penticton.ca/recycling or call the recycling hotline at 1-800-667-4321.

Yard waste inspections will check for non-plant materials, such as gardening supplies, plastic bags, dog waste, food waste and other not-accepted material.

For further details about what can – and can’t – go in your yard waste cart, visit the city’s website here.

MASSIVE CLEANUP ONGOING

ASK Wellness Society seeking funding to keep their community program running, which helps keeps Penticton clean

Over the last nine months, individuals in safety vests have been hard at working cleaning-up around the community of Penticton, picking up more than 6,000 pounds of garbage and 150 needle sharps.

The ASK Wellness Society’s Peer Ambassadors are program participants who have lived-experience with homelessness and support clean-up efforts in the community.

The social services agency based in the Interior currently operates two supportive housing sites within the city, Burdock House and Fairhaven.

The ambassadors from these supportive housing sites can be hired within ASK’s Peer Ambassador Program, and while not earning a wage, are provided with stipends via gift cards to access food and life necessities.

The program, which began operations in August of 2021, is temporarily funded with the financial support of BC Housing. The City of Penticton also entered into a partnership with ASK Wellness Society in November 2021, providing $5,000 towards the program.

“The City of Penticton is proud to be able to support ASK Wellness Society and the Peer Ambassador program, which provide an opportunity for individuals to learn new skills, connect to the community and help create a cleaner and safer home for all of us,” Mayor John Vassilaki said in a press release.

“This is an innovative project that shows how by working together we can make a difference for those in need.”

Keith Girard, team lead, has witnessed the positive results of the program first-hand.

“I’ve heard from participants about the effects the program has had on their mental health. They’ve been able to budget their money better, they feel good about themselves when out in community, and it also strengthens their trust in others. I’ve directly witnessed participants becoming more open and comfortable sharing their struggles and background as they participate in the program,” Girard said.

One program participant shared they have been particularly impacted by the public’s response.

“I like the reception we get while out in the community, people waving, smiling, and telling us to keep up the good work,” they said.

Forty ambassadors have collectively worked over 1,000 hours and recently supported the city’s bylaw team in cleaning up a homeless encampment, and continue to respond to calls from the community.

The program’s temporary funding will end in August of 2022. To keep the program going, ASK is hoping to identify and receive support from corporate and private donors to assist in funding.

To find out more about the ASK Wellness Society’s program, visit their website here.

Tourists numbers looking strong for summer in South Okanagan hotels

 

TOURISTS BITING AGAIN

GM of the Penticton Lakeside Resort & Convention Centre, Elizabeth Cucnik, said that bookings are looking healthy at this point.

“We really feel the injection of enthusiasm in the public, throughout the province, throughout Canada, we are seeing some travellers from the United States again, opening up. There’s quite a bit of optimism around tourism at the moment as a tourism operator.”

The reservations are getting close to being back at pre-pandemic levels.

“It feels like it’s the same kind of environment as pre-covid, In terms of our occupancy levels. However, I do continuously stress that it is with caution, because, we really do need this injection of tourism to help recover and it will take a long time,” Cucnik said.

“It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to happen with one summer of high occupancy, it’s going to take some time.”

The Naramata Inn shares a similar story in seeing their bookings rise this year.

“We opened in a pandemic. So things are a little unusual as a starting point, but we’re really happy to see that this year is going to be our strongest year yet. And we are trying to get to a place called ‘normal,’” Partner Kate Colley said, adding that they’re up over our goals for every month ahead except for August.

“I think people are really hopeful that this is going to be the year and the summer that everything kind of improves for the better. And we’re feeling that way too.”

Confidence has grown in visitation to Naramata so well that the Inn has expanded their dining offerings, opening a specialty wine bar, called Eliza, in their lower level.

As some of the area’s biggest festivals and celebrations return, the high attendance expectation can be seen in the rooms already being booked out.

“August long weekend is a huge weekend for us and most tourism operators throughout the South Okanagan. That is sort of our creme de la creme, the big weekend. But we have quite a few events that have returned this year, Peach City Beach Cruise is coming back, and the Elvis Festival too,” Cucnik said.

“We definitely have full occupancy around the Ironman and the GranFondo which is really exciting to know that people are considering Naramata even though they’re attending events in Penticton,” Colley added.

Both hospitality businesses continue to look for staff to hire on, as the worker shortage continues to impact the Okanagan.

“Staffing levels are always a challenge. I know for everybody, we’re not unique to that problem,” Cucnik said. The resort continues to attend job fairs and runs a program for Ukrainian refugees, with an offer to accommodate people that are coming over from Ukraine that can help work at the resort.

There is still some trepidation remaining for some visitors in their bookings.

“I’m certain people have various reservations about traveling in general after the last two years that we’ve had that included, of course, the pandemic, but also wildfires and a heat dome, like we’ve not seen here before,” Colley said.

“So I think people can’t help but have those kinds of thoughts in their mind when they’re making bookings. But we’re happy to see that people really are making the bookings and I’m sure this is going to be our best summer yet.”

Summerland residents push for upgrades, environmental protection in future of waterfront areas

 

NEXT STEPS FOR WATERFRONT

The importance of keeping lakeshore areas and beaches well maintained to the Summerland community is expressed well in the feedback for the Waterfront Concept Plan, which will be presented to district council on Tuesday.

The feedback was collected in March ahead of developing a Waterfront Concept Plan by consultants from Lees & Associates, which included input sessions with Council, the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee, environmental resources, youth, service clubs, park user groups, community organizations, neighbours, and local businesses.

This includes Peach Orchard Beach, Rotary Beach Park and Horse Beach.

The plan will follow aims set by council focusing on design and services promoting inclusivity and promotion of physical activity for healthy lifestyles.

It will set the future course of stewardship for park land, beaches, amenities, swimming and water activities and infrastructure in the areas of Peach Orchard Beach to Rotary Beach Park.

Initial feedback from the reports suggest that residents are passionate about maintaining opportunities for horses and dogs to enjoy the beaches and water is important.

Out of the online survey, which included 480 responses the public, residents want to see:

  • Improved swimmer safety, including reduced conflict between water recreation users (boaters, swimmers, etc)
  • Universal accessibility improvements, especially to the water, washrooms, and seating areas
  • Environment and sustainability included, protecting the waterfront environment
  • Parking is a challenge, but keeping park space is more important and improved bike infrastructure is needed.
  • A desire for more canopy trees and native planting

In the overall feedback from the survey, improving amenities and the landscape, improve trails for walking and biking, and enhancing the environment were prominent.

Respondents also want to see the washrooms made to be fully accessible with year round use and a Family wash and change rooms included.

On Rotary Beach, respondents want to see improvements made to:

  • Shelter from the sun (51%)
  • More trees (45%)
  • Fire pits (38%)
  • Amenities for food trucks (36%)
  • Larger open water swim area (30%)

On Peach Orchard Park, respondents want to see improvements made to:

  • Expand/ improve beach (52%)
  • More trees + habitat (39%)
  • Amenities for food trucks (31%)
  • Shelter from the sun (29%)
  • Accessibility at the Dog Beach (28%)

On Horse Beach, respondents want to see:

  • Keep it as it is – keep it natural and quiet, as a local’s beach (58 open ended responses)
  • Ensure horse access (52 responses)
  • Improve parking especially for trailers (27 responses)

Heading forward, the key improvements suggested are to include: A continuous bike path that provides cycling infrastructure, sufficient accessible parking, set up life saving equipment, add riparian planting and use nature-based solutions to protect and restore the shoreline, plant additional trees in the parks and along the Centennial Trail and clarify and communicate animal regulations.

The consultants are planning for an in-person public open House on June 16, 2022, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 pm, with a presentation at 5:30 pm, at the Arena Banquet Room to display draft concept plans and collect community input.

A second public survey will be issued and available from June 6 – 26, 2022, to gain further input from the public.

The consultants are targeting the beginning of August to have the Waterfront Concept Plan completed and will return to Council on August 22, 2022, to present the final Plan.

Okanagan Lake starts rising, delayed snowpack could be beneficial to have water peak during summer

 

LAKE LEVELS SLOWLY RISING

While Okanagan Lake still sits low, Penticton’s dam manager said it is in a better place than before, as he continues his focus on capturing as much water as possible.

The lake remains a little under 70 centimetres, or over two feet, below the full pool target level.

“Right now, we’re probably more concerned with filling the lake to a proper degree than we would be for flooding concerns on the lake. So we probably won’t be raising our outflows through the dam to the degree we thought we would, say even several weeks ago,” Shaun Reimer, the Okanagan section head and Penticton dam manager said.

In their forecast, Reimer expects about 85 centimeters of water coming into Okanagan Lake between now and the end of July.

“If that forecast comes into being or, potentially, we could get less than that forecast, then we’re gonna have a struggle getting the lake up to the full pool target,” he said.

“If we have though, a rainy or just a normal-ish kind of summer, our hopes are that even if we don’t get to the level we’d like to, that by fall we can still recover.”

Last year, the lake level was lowered in anticipation of the high snow pack levels combined with spring rain. But when the Okanagan saw an incredibly dry spring and summer, the low levels brought on a drought.

Reimer said the levels are in a better position this year compared to last.

As of May 1, the average snowpack in the Okanagan is 83 per cent of normal, up from 74 per cent last month.

B.C.’s River Forecast Centre published its latest Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin on Tuesday, which states that cool weather in April has delayed snow melt.

“That late snowpack sticking around at the higher elevations might be a good thing. So it’s sticking around and getting to give us the ability to continue to fill the lake and a little bit later on into the summer,” Reimer said.

“When you want that water later in the summer for fish, for irrigators, for recreation, for all the various interests, just for that general water supply purpose. It’s harder to keep it in the lake when it peaks earlier. But if it sticks around, in the upper levels, that’s probably beneficial for all those interests.”

The case this spring has been a growing concern for flooding with the tributaries. As snowpack is only one indicator of potential flooding, a close eye will be kept on upcoming forecasts and weather events.

Hop-on-hop-off Naramata winery trolley tours launch

 

TROLLEY WINE TOUR LAUNCHES

 

All aboard! Grape Savvy Trolley Co. has officially launched the Okanagan Valley’s only hop-on hop-off tourism experience in the South Okanagan.

Savannah Swaisland, who is the proprietor of the company, kicked off her business opening on Sunday with a small group testing the two re-vamped and wrapped old-school trolleys.

“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been planning this project for well over a year now and to see these trolleys full of people driving down the Naramata Bench is just really exciting,” she said.

The tours will be running from Penticton to Naramata starting this Saturday.

“You can hop on and hop off these beauties as many times as you want per day.”

An online web app integration system will be the host for all ticket sales, which are done online and keep track of where the trolleys are travelling at all times throughout the day with a live direct feed to their location. The app will also tell you how many seats are available on the bus.

The winemaker, viticulturist, sommelier and certified Aboriginal member of Indigenous Tourism BC was all smiles on Sunday, even after an unfortunate fire melted the side of one of their buses’ wraps prior to launch.

“We encountered a suspicious fire Friday night which set back final detailing but rise of the phoenix through the ashes and here we are 24 hours later,” Swaisland said. “A huge shout out to Bling Performance for giving us a quick wrap fix and for everyone who has worked so hard and tirelessly to bring this project to life.”

“I just want to see people have fun. I just want to see these trolleys up and down the Naramata Bench and people really enjoying the service that we offer.”

Swaisland has been running Grape Savvy Wine Tours for the past four years, but felt there was demand for a more affordable option.

“People in general just seem to be really excited for this new generation of wine tourism, which again, just offers that accessibility convenience and affordability when it comes to wine touring,” she said.

“I think not only locals, but the winery, industry in general, just really need support. If you lower the price of the tour, you give higher discretionary income for people to spend, in turn supporting the industry.”

The trolleys were purchase from the Vancouver Trolley Company and Swaisland has acquired three more for routes to be released at a later date.

” [I am] a winemaker turned trolley hoarder,” she said with a laugh. “We’ve got five as of next week, but it’s a pretty hush about where they’re going. So that’ll be launched shortly.”

The trolleys will run on a predetermined route and day passes go for $39, which are valid all day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“I think this service is really needed again for accessibility into this the heart of Naramata Bench Winery community and I think everyone, including the wineries and locals and tourists alike are all going to really benefit from it.”

To find out more information on Grape Savvy Trolley Co. or book a ticket, visit their website here.

Penticton water restrictions begin at the start of May

 

WATER RESTRICTIONS COMING

The City of Penticton’s water restrictions will be in place from May 1 to August 31 this year, as a method to help mitigate the potential complications of drought.

Watering days are as follows:

  • Odd numbered street addresses may irrigate on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday only.
  • Even numbered street addresses may irrigate on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday only.
  • No watering on Mondays.

Townhouses and condominiums follow their street address, not their unit address. Only properties zoned RSM (Mobile Home Park) use their respective unit number in place of street address.

Irrigation times are as follows:

  • Automatic irrigation is permitted to run between 12:01 a.m. to 6 a.m. only on designated days.
  • Manual irrigation is permitted to run between 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. only on designated days.

Tips from Okanagan WaterWise on how to reduce your outdoor water use this spring and summer are to put water on the night shift, between dusk and dawn during the coolest part of the day to prevent evaporation, let your grass grow this summer, leaving 2-3 inches to help slow evaporation from the soil and choose plants suitable to the dry climate.

Residents are also reminded to check sprinkler heads. Sometimes sprinkler heads break, or plants grow around the sprinkler head, preventing effective water use. Check sprinkler heads and make necessary fixes to ensure they are working right.

Visit www.penticton.ca/water for more information about water restrictions and conservation.